How to avoid having your card information stolen by skimming devices

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Next time you pay for gas at the pump, think twice about using your debit card. Security experts say you could be putting yourself at risk.

“It’s really, really scary,” said Michael Jones with Commerce Bank in Independence. “Don’t use your pin number at a pump.”

Jones said a growing number of thieves are targeting gas pumps and ATMs with skimming devices, which steal card information. That’s particularly bad with a debit card where thieves can empty out your account. Thieves have cameras secretly placed to capture your PIN as you punch it in.

Jones recommended buying gas with a credit card instead or going inside the gas station and paying in person.

If you must use your debit card at the pump, use a piece of paper to cover your hand while your punching in your PIN.

How do you spot a skimming device? Many times you can’t. Some skimmers are so small they can be slipped inside the card reader. Other times there are clear warning signs – including an ATM card reader that appears to have been tampered with.

“If you detect that it might be loose or broken or cracked, do not use it at all and contact the bank or merchant to report that ATM,” Jones said.

ATMs at convenience stores are more likely to be the target of a skimming device than ATMs at banks, which are checked daily.

But even bank ATMs can fall victim, which is why some experts recommend you avoid using them on weekends.

Finally, make sure your bank knows how to contact you by text message or phone to report fraudulent activity on your account. Jones said many people haven’t updated their contact information in years.